Rapid reactions: Panthers get big plays from rookies

Chuba Hubbard

INDIANAPOLIS — The thing the Panthers feel the best about on offense is their array of skill-position players, who are capable of big plays.

Sunday, those guys were sitting, and watching a new generation of home run hitters introduce themselves.

Rookie wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. and running back Chuba Hubbard stood out during their first half with the second offense, in Sunday's 21-18 loss to the Colts.

Marshall had three catches for 88 yards in the first half, with most of that coming on a 60-yard catch-and-run in the open field.

He worked outside when the Panthers had two receivers on the field (starting alongside Brandon Zylstra), but worked out of the slot when they went three-wide.

Considering that DJ Moore and Robby Anderson were just getting a day off with the rest of the starters, that's a role they think Marshall can flourish in. He played both outside and in the slot at LSU, and put up big numbers there with Joe Brady calling the plays during the 2019 national championship season.

Hubbard had seven carries for 80 yards in the first half, with most of that coming on an impressive 59-yard scamper.

Hubbard appeared to be stuffed at the line of scrimmage, but popped the play out to the right and raced down the sideline for the big gain.

It was a good-news/bad-news kind of run, as the second offensive line didn't open many holes for him, but he created his own.

The Panthers have gotten accustomed to seeing Christian McCaffrey making such runs, with his quickness giving him the chance to make something out of nothing.

Marshall has a chance for a more regular role on offense this year, while Hubbard's strictly competing for backup time. He's shown some flash on kick returns also, and if he keeps making splash plays like Sunday, they'll want to find a way for him to contribute.

— The Panthers' starting defense had a good week of work against the Colts, and the reserves showed some flashes Sunday.

Marquis Haynes and Frankie Luvu had key plays in the first half, with Haynes getting a strip-sack which led to points and Luvu sacking Colts quarterback Jacob Eason on a fourth down attempt.

The Panthers have a pretty good pair of players in front of them in Brian Burns and Haason Reddick, but Haynes showed last year that he can contribute, and Luvu has made a good impression here after spending his first three years with the Jets.

Safety Kenny Robinson had an interception in the third quarter.

That position is deeper and more talented than previously assumed. Adding a Jeremy Chinn to it will do that for you, and Sean Chandler has made a load of plays in camp.

— Quarterback P.J. Walker had an up-and-down first half, and continued to live up to his reputation for trying to make big plays without always making the safe ones.

He was 10-of-21 passing in the first half for 161 yards and a touchdown, but there were a few moments he'd like to have back.

They settled for a field goal after a turnover when Walker tried to force a ball to Marshall, and it was nearly intercepted. There was a chance he might have been able to run for the first down instead.

— CB Troy Pride Jr. had a rough fourth quarter. He appeared to be in pain after committing a long pass interference penalty, but was back on the field a play later.

Then Colts receiver Tyler Vaughns made an amazing one-handed catch over him, and he went down awkwardly.

The athletic training staff tried to help him off the field, but he wasn't able to make it to the locker room before he collapsed, and they had to bring a cart out for him. He was immediately ruled doubtful to return with a knee injury.

J.J. Jansen did all the long snapping in the first half, for both kicks and punts.

Rookie Thomas Fletcher handled the second half.

Adjust your depth chart projections accordingly.

— The second offensive line became a bit of a muddle.

Left tackle Trent Scott was pulled in favor of Greg Little, after Scott committed a pair of false starts.

Then both guards left the game with injuries, with Matt Kaskeyleaving with a foot problem and Deonte Brown with an ankle.

They were replaced by Aaron Monteiro and Mike Horton, respectively.

The Panthers are still trying to figure out how to put together a starting offensive line, and adding injury questions to the mix is unwelcome.

— The Panthers went into the game with just 56 available players.

They held out all the starters after a vigorous couple of joint practices with the Colts, with the first team getting around 55 or 60 snaps of live action (which is around what they'd get in a regular-season game).

Even if they had played, starters rarely play more than a quarter in the preseason opener.

In addition to the ones, the Panthers held out a few players who picked up injuries over the course of the week in Indiana, including running backs Reggie Bonnafon and Rodney Smith, linebacker Nate Hall, center Mike Panasiuk, and defensive tackle Caraun Reid.

View photos from Indianapolis as the Panthers take on the Colts in the first preseason game.

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